It’s Time to Officially Define ‘Cyber War’

The American Heritage Dictionary describes war as “a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality.”  The set of techniques used by a group to carry out war is known as warfare. An absence of war is usually called peace.

Some say we are in a cyber war but there appears to be no formal ‘official’ definition for cyber war. Why is that?

We see many classifications of cyber warfare as ‘actions’ or ‘techniques’ used in warfare.  William J. Lynn, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, states that “as a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain in warfare . . . [which] has become just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”

What about hacktivism or independent acts by individuals or companies, some with good intentions others with bad? Are they part of the 5th domain of warfare? Is anyone with a computer a contributor to cyber warfare?

Recent events:

  • RSA authentication tokens compromised
  • Google’s involvement in the Arab Spring
  • Sony Play Station hacked
  • The HB Gary Federal incident

As other nations prepare to build greater cyber capability, we must ensure there is a clear definition of cyber war.   We used to worry about our Presidents with their finger on the red button. Now we have to worry about anyone with access to a cheap computer and the Internet. The only difference today appears to be intent.

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